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Tips for tutoring

Is your first session with a student approaching? Or are you looking to see how you can improve your teaching ability? Tutoring can seem daunting, especially your first time. Below are some tips to be prepared and ready to tutor at your absolute best!

Prepare. It may seem obvious but you must prepare for each lesson with each student as best as possible for them as an individual. The best way to do this is to find out their strengths and weaknesses in the relevant subject/s and gather resources to see where they’re at for the first lesson. After that, make adjustments to how you teach, what subjects you focus on and always try to make changes to suit each students’ own individual needs. Resources are everywhere so it’s very easy to prepare for each individual student. You can always make your own resources if need be!

Be friendly. Greeting children with a smile and positivity goes a long way. Some children may be afraid of the idea of tutors while others may embrace it far easier. Either way, being friendly will help with any student, especially in building a relationship where they feel more comfortable telling you where they have issues and gives them some positivity to work harder by their own free will. Something I love to do is to encourage my students to make mistakes. Not “make mistakes” but more so giving it a go and not being afraid of getting it wrong. This helps their confidence, your relationship and, the next tip, helps to build trust.

Build trust. Building trust in students is essential to their improvement. Your students trusting and respecting you will make sure that they focus more in sessions and will do the necessary work to improve (i.e homework). To build trust, it’s a matter of being friendly and being reliable. Be positive and have a smile and show up, on time, every lesson with work to push them. Encouraging children to make attempts, as per my last tip, will help a ton! Showing that if they make mistakes, you can guide them through it to learn and improve will make students feel happier and feel more confident in themselves and in you.

Push. Now, this tip is the most difficult one but is very important. Push means challenging them, every lesson, to grow and to learn. What makes it difficult is that you must find the right balance for each student. If you give work that is too difficult to some students, they may crumble and their confidence does too, but you can’t give them things that they find easy either. So, how do you balance how much to push? What I like to do is this: after I know where a student is at in their capabilities, I give them some easier warm-up questions to build their confidence and gradually increase the difficulty. For example, I had a student who had issues with 2 digit by 2 digit multiplication. So I started by teaching them a method to follow and gave them easy questions that got more and more difficult. After a few weeks, we started to push more and more to the point where they can now do 5 digit by 5 digit multiplication with ease, where they struggled with 2 digit by 2 digit before.

The pressure of students and parents relying on you can be daunting, and that’s completely understandable! However, in using my tips, you’ll be able to grow as a tutor alongside your student. Just give it your all and you will do a great job!

By Carlos Sheather

How to quote in an essay

We’ve all been there. Trying to work out the best way to sandwich an awkward quote into an essay to prove our point, and knowing that getting it wrong could cost us marks. The good news? It doesn’t have to be this way.

Quotes (or ‘quotations’ to use their full name) are an integral part of writing a VCE essay.  Whether it’s a text response, comparative, or language analysis question, you can be sure that you’re going to need to reference back to your source text at some point when writing an essay – so it pays to know how to do it properly.

In this guide, we take a detailed look at how to quote in an essay and give you some top tips for making those references stand out.

What are quotes?

This might be taking things back to basics, but before you can learn to quote properly, you need to know what a quote actually is.

In simple terms, a quotation is where the words from a text are repeated by somebody other than the original author. You can usually tell when somebody has used a quotation since the phrase or passage will be marked out by quotation marks – which are expressed at either end of the quote as single inverted commas (‘quote’) or double inverted commas (“quote”).

Should you use a single or double quotation mark in Australia?

There’s actually no formal rule when it comes to using quotation marks in Australia. In most cases, the use of single inverted commas is preferred since this follows the British standard. It’s also perfectly acceptable for you to use the American style double inverted commas – but either way you must be consistent and not use a mix of the two.

Why use quotes in an essay?

When they’re used properly, quotes can make for a very powerful addition to an essay. For one thing, they clearly demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of a text, but they can also help you to evidence and reinforce your argument.

Without quotes, you may find it difficult to link back to the text your discussing – and this kind of effective communication is absolutely essential if you want to score the best possible marks in English essays.

Of course, if you can use quotes effectively and in the correct way, you’ll also be showing the examiners just how great your writing skills are, too!

How to fit quotes into an essay

If you want to achieve the best marks, you need to use quotes. The arguments you make about a text should always be supported by short quotes, and without them your points are at risk of seeming irrelevant.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when you’re quoting from a text in an essay:

  • Always use the exact words from the original text. Inaccuracy here could make it seem like you didn’t pay attention to the detail of the text, and it won’t do anything to reinforce the argument you’re making.
  • Always use the same punctuation style. Maintain consistency between quotes, and only use either single inverted commas, or double inverted commas – not a mix of the two.
  • Remember to close the punctuation marks, and use the same punctuation as the original text. Keeping to this rule means that your quotations are accurate, and the examiner’s attention won’t instead be drawn to your inconsistent or inaccurate grammar.

How to use embedded quotations in an essay

There are a few ways to include quotations in an essay, but embedding is by far the most effective. Embedding is when you include the quotation as part of your own sentence, for instance in an essay about Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, you might say:

The reader learns about Mary’s perceptions of human nature, when she describes pride as ‘a very common failing’.

By including quotes within the body of your text, you can pick and choose very precise pieces of evidence to corroborate the point you’re trying to make. You can even use single word quotes and develop your ideas around them – a technique that often goes down very well with examiners.

All in all, embedded quotes are a great way to include references and evidence from a text. Just be cautious not to use short quotes out of context or to make a point that doesn’t naturally follow from their meaning in the original text, as it might seem that you don’t understand the material.

How to use quotations at the end of a point

It’s also quite common practice to use quotes at the end of your argument. In such cases you should use a colon before the quotation to make it clear that you are quoting from the text:

The reader learns that Mary is circumspect of human nature and, in particular, Mr Darcy’s own nature: ‘” Pride”, observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, “is a very common failing, I believe.”’

How to use long quotes in an essay

If you need to use a longer quotation, the proper practice is to separate it from the body of your essay by dropping down a line and indenting the text. This means that you should leave a gap in the left-hand margin – and since the quote is separate from your writing, you are not strictly required to use quotation marks.

How to use an ellipsis in a quote

In some cases you might want to use a quote but omit some of the writing between the two points you want to highlight. In such cases, an ellipsis could help you. This is a formal way of showing that something is missing from the sentence, and consists of three dots in a row. An example might be:

The reader learns that Mary is circumspect of human nature and, in particular, Mr Darcy’s own nature: ‘ ”Pride … is a very common failing, I believe.” ’

Get better marks with Alchemy Tuition

Since 2005, Alchemy Tuition has worked with thousands of students to help them achieve the best possible results across VCE English and a wide variety of other courses.

All of our friendly and affordable tutors have been in the same shoes, studying hard and hoping to get a great grade. We know what the examiners are looking for, and we’ll help you (or your child) to excel at using quotes in their essays and much, much more.

To find out more, or to book an initial tutoring session, visit our site.

Guide to VCE Language Analysis

The VCE English course can be surprisingly tough, but students can get ahead by knowing what to look for and how to approach the topic. One area that many students struggle with is language analysis – but it doesn’t have to be hard!

In this guide, we explore what it takes to score a top mark in VCE Language Analysis so you can ace the exam.

What is Language Analysis?

Language Analysis (also known as Analysing Argument, Argument Analysis, and an array of other names) is the most distinctive of the three VCE English Course sections. Unlike the Text Response and Comparative sections, the Language Analysis element of the course focuses on unseen texts (or ‘cold material’). This is perhaps the most daunting part of these exams, since students often worry about dealing with texts that they’ve never seen before.

In simple terms, students sitting VCE Language Analysis are tasked with analysing the persuasive techniques deployed by the author of a piece of writing. This will generally be an opinion piece, a political campaign ad, or something similar that expresses an opinion rather than giving a more balanced view of a topic.

What do examiners look for in Language Analysis answers?

Regardless of the text that you’re analysing, the VCE examiners are looking for broadly the same things from your Language Analysis answer.

Firstly, you’ll be expected to understand the arguments and points of view expressed by the author. This is important because your entire analysis will be based around your understanding of the point they’re trying to make, and so getting this wrong could lead the rest of your essay in the wrong direction. The answer, of course, is to read the text very carefully and to think about its context. If it’s a political advert, try to put yourself in the shoes of a voter who the writer is trying to persuade. Conversely, for an opinion piece, think about the issues surrounding the topic to gain a better understanding of what the writer is trying to communicate. You don’t need to be an expert on the topic, you just need to get a basic grasp of what’s being said!

Secondly, you’ll need to be able to effectively analyse the ways in which language and visual features are used to persuade readers and to make the argument. Identifying and critically analysing the techniques a writer uses to get their point across is the primary focus of the Language Analysis section of VCE, and so you need to be ready to pick apart what’s happening in the text. From the use of rhetorical language through to questions and statistics, try to pick out what the writer is saying, explain how the technique has been deployed to convince readers, and look at whether their approach is convincing or effective given the context of the topic.

Finally, as with all VCE English exams, you need to communicate clearly and effectively. Examiners spend all day reading and grading essays, so the last thing you want is for them to be distracted from your great ideas by spelling errors and spurious punctuation points. By making sure that your writing is clear and unambiguous, you’ll stand a much better chance of getting a top grade.

Key persuasive techniques to look out for

There are lots of ways for writers to convince readers that their point of view is the right one. This is what Language Analysis is all about, and the more persuasive language techniques you know about, the better you’ll be at answering these questions. To give you an idea of the kinds of techniques we’re talking about, here’s a summary of how writers try to compel their readers.

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition. This one is fairly self-explanatory, and it’s something that you can easily look out for in a text. When a writer is trying to bring you around to their way of thinking, they may repeat the most important points several times. Where it gets a little more tricky, however, is when the same idea is expressed in a number of different ways. You should be looking not only for repeated words, but repeated ideas that may have been rephrased. Repetition is a great way to embed your ideas into readers’ heads, and it also serves as a way of bringing the argument back around to the key issue being discussed.

Because. It may seem simple, but explaining the reasons why something is right or wrong can be very powerful indeed. People don’t generally like to be told what to think, but if a writer explains the reasons why their perspective is the correct one, readers are far more likely to agree – even if they don’t completely understand the logic. Look out for explanatory passages and because sections – since these are the backbone of any decent argument.

Rhetorical Questions. By asking a rhetorical question, writers can prompt readers to think more deeply about their own views on a topic. It’s a way to subtly emphasize a point – particularly when the reader already knows the answer. Simply put, rhetorical questions provide a way for writers to engage with readers – bringing them around to the idea of an argument in the process.

There are lots of other techniques writers use, too. From inclusive language and expert opinion, through to the use of repetition, alliteration, exaggeration, and generalisation, you need to keep your eyes peeled when reading Language Analysis texts.

Get better VCE English marks with Alchemy Tuition

Armed with the information we’ve set out in this guide, you’ll be ready to start performing better in VCE English Language Analysis questions. But if you’re still unsure, or feel like you could benefit from extra guidance, why not get some help from our grade-busting tutors?

Since 2005, Alchemy Tuition has worked with thousands of students to help them achieve the best possible results. All of our friendly and affordable tutors have been in the same position, studying hard and hoping to get a great grade. We know what the examiners are looking for, and we’ll help you (or your child) to excel at writing Language Analysis answers and much, much more.

To find out more, or to book an initial tutoring session, visit our site.

How to write a creative response

So many exams are about learning facts and sticking to the same formula, so it should come as no surprise that students can find it difficult to break the mould when it comes to writing a creative response.

Fortunately, there are a number of techniques that can make it much easier to write a great creative response piece that’s reflective, insightful, and worthy of a great grade. Once you to know the format, you might even find that you enjoy this less restricted form of academic writing!

What is a creative response?

Creative responses are English assignments that require students to tap into their creative side – picking up on the themes, commentaries, and ideas that are presented in a piece of literature that they’re studying.

The assessment is all about demonstrating your understanding of the literary techniques used in the text. Unlike other exams, though, you’re not being asked to critically analyse a text or demonstrate your understanding of the narrative.

Instead, the challenge here is to apply your knowledge and understanding of the text to create your own piece of writing that embodies the spirit and deploys the methods used in the literature you’ve been learning about.

How to format a creative response

Creative responses can take a couple of forms, so even though your writing will be relatively unrestricted, you still need to stay on topic and structure your writing in a relevant way.

It could be that you’re asked to write a brief narrative, a diary entry for an established character, or a short script. Either way, it’s likely to be a format that allows you to stretch your creative muscles and convey some of the ideas, feelings, and thoughts that the texts you’ve studied tap into.

Top tips for writing a creative response

Creative writing allows you to let loose with your own ideas, but that doesn’t mean your teachers and examiners aren’t looking for certain things. If you want to score the very best marks, consider the following whenever you’re writing a creative response:

Do express your views

Most people form views about the themes expressed in their English texts, but typical exam questions don’t really give you the space to explore those thoughts. Creative responses are your chance to think outside of the box and to make some arguments about the real world. Think about how the ideas and themes expressed in your text apply to the modern world, and use that to develop a narrative of your own.

Don’t focus too much on flowery language

The very best creative pieces use plenty of adjectives and descriptive phrases – but that shouldn’t be at the expense of a proper narrative. The point of these assessments is to convey your ideas, and getting too caught up on metaphors and expressive language could tip your writing over into the realm of poetry.

Do show, don’t tell

Even though you don’t need to go overboard with the flowery language, you still need to communicate your ideas in a way that showcases your understanding of the vocabulary, imagery and symbolism from the relevant text. Rather than saying that a character is “tired”, you should instead be saying that “their sunken eyes betrayed many late nights”. Unleash your inner author, and let those marks role in!

Achieve your full potential with VCE tutoring

Since 2005, Alchemy Tuition has worked with thousands of students to help them achieve the best possible results.

All of our friendly and affordable tutors have been in the same shoes, studying hard and hoping to get a great grade. We know what the examiners are looking for, and we’ll help you (or your child) to excel with patience and a few study secrets!

To find out more, or to book an initial tutoring session, visit our site.

How to write an argument analysis

Argument analysis (also know as language analysis, analysis argument, and a variety of other names) is the second area of study (AoS 2) that’s known to be one of the most challenges parts of the VCE English course. Part of the problem is that many schools schedule in their argument analysis SAC at an early stage in the year – so you need to keep your skills sharp if you’re to perform well when the end-of-year task roles around.

In this article, we cover the basics of how to write a great argument analysis answer and impart a few of our favourite tips on how to push your grade just that little bit higher.

What is an argument analysis?

Argument analysis is one of the three core elements of the VCE English course. It’s also quite different from the other key areas of the course, since both text response and comparative answers focus on the analysis of the novels, films, and other texts that you study throughout the year. Argument analysis, in contrast, sees students tasked with analysing ‘cold material’ that they’ve not seen before.

Getting down to business, the language analysis requires students to look at a number of articles or images that have typically been written for the media as an opinion piece or as part of a political or social campaign. Your task is to carefully read the article, analyse and scrutinise the persuasive techniques used, and communicate this analysis in an essay.

What do the examiners want from an argument analysis answer? 

Aside from strong analytical skills, there are a few specific things the examiners are looking for when they’re grading argument analysis answers.

First things first, they want to see that you understand the arguments and points of view that are contained within the text. The trick here is to avoid misinterpreting what the writer means when they’re expressing their views, and that can be easier said than done if you aren’t familiar with the central issue discussed.

You’ll need to provide a thorough analysis of the language techniques used to present the argument if you want to score a top mark. It’s really a case of explaining what the writer is doing to try to persuade the reader that their point of view is the right one. Think rhetorical questions, statistics, inclusive writing and you won’t go far wrong. When you’re writing your essay answer, your best bet is to explicitly point out these language techniques before explaining (in simple terms) what they do to bring the reader around to the writer’s viewpoint.

Finally, as with all English answers, you need to write clearly and effectively in an appropriate register. Using an effective writing style and appropriate language will help the examiners to understand the points you’re trying to make, and prevent them from deducting marks for the use bad grammar or a poor approach to expressing ideas.

Top tips for getting a better argument analysis mark

Whether you’re preparing for your SACs or the exam itself, there’s just one pneumonic you’ll need to remember if you want to get the best possible argument analysis grade – the 5Ps:






As ever, the answer is thorough and effective preparation, so be sure to get hold of some sample texts and practise with past exam papers. Knowing what to expect will help to raise your confidence levels and get you used to the argument analysis format.

It also helps to know and understand as many of the linguistic techniques that might be deployed by a writer to persuade readers. We’ve already mentioned statistics, inclusive language, and rhetorical questions, but think also about:

  • Anecdotes
  • The use of expert opinion
  • Repetition
  • Exaggeration
  • Generalisation

Finally, make sure that you’re expressing yourself effectively too. Be sure to flex your vocabulary by describing the way the writer is communicating, but be careful to ensure that your writing still makes sense.

By practising and using these methods, you should be well on your way to getting a great mark!

Get better marks with Alchemy Tuition

Since 2005, Alchemy Tuition has worked with thousands of students to help them achieve the best possible results.

All of our friendly and affordable tutors have been in the same shoes, studying hard and hoping to get a great grade. We know what the examiners are looking for, and we’ll help you (or your child) to excel at writing argument analysis answers and much, much more.

To find out more, or to book an initial tutoring session, visit our site.